Bill Littlejohn, a Sequim businessman who owned numerous senior care facilities and whose philanthropy and advocacy boosted dozens of local organizations, has died.
Friends and associates confirmed that Littlejohn died Thursday, Dec. 12, at age 73.
The son of Dr. Robert Littlejohn, a physician on the Olympic Peninsula for four decades, Bill Littlejohn was a business owner and developer who owned and oversaw several senior living facilities, including Sherwood Assisted Living, Fifth Avenue Senior Independent Living and the Lodge at Sherwood Village.
Littlejohn, who owned Thomas Building Supply and Olympic Ambulance, was a significant contributor to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic Medical Center Foundation.
Esther Littlejohn, Bill’s wife of 51 years, said Friday that her husband’s passing was expected — he had an as-yet named neurological disease, she said — but his health deteriorated quickly.
“He able to let us know what his wishes were,” Esther said. “He fought to the very end; he loved life.”
The Littlejohns were honored with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Humanitarian Award.
Among a number of philanthropic endeavors, the Littlejohns also bestowed scholarships annually to local high school students.
“I think it was important to him to leave Sequim a better place,” Esther said. “This has been his home; he grew up here.
It has always been important to us to give back to our community and our employees who have been so wonderful and hard working.”
The last project the couple had in mind — one that is still going to happen, Esther said — is a series of affordable duplexes for employees of the Littlejohn’s businesses.
“It’s not going to be a moneymaker for us at all (but) we want our employees to be safe and comfortable.”
No services have been announced yet.
An advocate for young and old
While much of his commercial interests had to to with developments, Bill Littlejohn followed in his father’s proverbial footsteps in his support for local youth facilities.
Mary Budke, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, said Robert Littlejohn was on the ground floor of getting Sequim’s Carrol C. Kendall unit built. In the preceding years his son Bill made donations of varying amounts, with his annual Duck Derby sales benefiting the club and, most recently, the donation of a 1963 VW Volkswagen for the 2019 auction that netted the club $14,000.
When club officials were seeking significant donations for the soon-to-be-built Port Angeles facility, Budke sat down with Bill to see if he’d contribute once again.
“I was nervous —” I said, ‘Bill, you’ve already given so much to the B&G club … (but) I have something to ask of you.’” Budke proceeded to ask him for a $250,000 donation.
“He got a huge smile on his face, and he said, ‘Is that all?’ And he said yes.
“He’s just been there. He ever told me ‘no.’”
Budke said several club employees went on to work for Littlejohn and they typically stayed under his employ for years.
“Once you start working for him you stay,” she said. “I think people knew that they thought they were worthy.”
“I’m so sad about this loss of the community and for Esther and (their daughter) Lindsay, but (I’m) so thankful I got to know him,” Budke said.
Senior housing, health
Started in 1973, Sherwood Village off North Fifth Avenue eventually saw the rise of 187 homes/condominiums. Over the years, Littlejohn built nearby senior housing options The Lodge at Sherwood Village (opened in 2005) and The Fifth Avenue as well.
In an article published by the Clallam EDC in conjunction with Sound Publishing, it notes that the Littlejohns that “all were carefully stitched together during the past 43 years by Esther and Bill Littlejohn.”
Later, it reads, “If you take a walk with Bill around his ‘campus’ the personal touch is easy to see. He works side-by-side with his ‘working managers,’ driving a tractor, mowing the lawns, doing anything necessary to keep the 80-acre patch of ground clean and beautiful. If you drop in with him at the Lodge at Sherwood Village, you will see smiles and wisecracks from the residents fly his way as he passes with a greeting and a shy smile. Bill’s not the boss. He’s their friend and neighbor.”
The Littlejohns also started Olympic Ambulance Service, Inc., in 1971, opening its doors with just one ambulance and five part-time employees.
Bill Littlejohn was also a significant backer of the Olympic Medical Cancer Center, serving as chairman of the capital campaign.
OMC Foundation Executive Director Bruce Skinner worked with Littlejohn closely the last three years, particularly the past year when Littlejohn served as OMC Foundation president.
“We set a preliminary goal of $500,000 (with the capital campaign), and would have been very happy with that,” Skinner wrote in an email after hearing of Littlejohn’s death.
“When Bill became chair, he raised that figure to $1 million. We ended up raising $1.3 million.
“No one has given more of his time and resources to the Sequim-Port Angeles communities than Bill and Esther.”
Skinner noted Littlejohn’s various community activities and donations, from the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce (former president) to the Economic Development Council (board member, 2015-2019), the Sequim Irrigation Festival, Olympic Peninsula Humane Society and Peninsula Friends of Animals, the Dungeness Health and Wellness Clinic, Dungeness River Audubon Center, Peninsula College nursing program and more, as well as OMC foundation fundraising events such as the Festival of Trees, Harvest of Hope, the Red, Set, Go Luncheon and the Great Olympic Peninsula Duck Derby.
Littlejohn was the Duck Derby’s top duck seller in 2019 with 2,601.
Brown Maloney, a friend and fellow Sequim businessman and philanthropist, noted that Littlejohn was an avid hiker who had traversed nearly every Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest trail.
Littlejohn’s death, Maloney said, was a surprise to many.